1Duke Clinical Research Institute, Duke University, Durham, N.C., USA.
Although new hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections are decreasing due to improving vaccination coverage, patients without vaccination coverage can still suffer from manifestation of acute hepatitis B with jaundice and (although rarely) liver failure. No treatment is indicated for mild acute hepatitis B; however, antiviral therapy should be initiated for patients showing signs of significant liver impairment as exemplified by deterioration of prothrombin time to an equivalent of 1.5 or 50% of the 'Quick test'. For fulminant hepatitis, there is no complete agreement on whether antiviral treatment would alter the course, but it should still be started, as it would reduce the risk of reinfection in case there is a need for liver transplantation. Patients in danger of progression towards acute liver failure should be referred to transplant centers as early as possible.